It might have been a strange decision, taking our somewhat modestly sized, solitary bathroom and making 40% of it shower. That was certainly not in the house plans. When it comes down to it, though, what do you really need a big bathroom for? Walking around? Yoga? As long as there's enough room for the toilet, somewhere to hang a couple of towels and enough counter space to lean over the sink with your elbows out, it shouldn't feel cramped. A bigger bathroom might be nice, but a big, cavernous shower? That's the real luxury! The inspiration came from traveling around Central America. Christy and I both fell in love with the large, open, tiled showers that seemed to be the norm wherever we went. In a big shower you can stretch and soak your armpits without banging your elbows against the wall, you can shower with someone, you can pace if something is on your mind, and the acoustics make your voice sound way better than normal. Not having a door or curtain makes the whole experience feel more free and relaxed. So, if we only have 70 square feet of bathroom to work with, you better believe 30 of those square feet are going to be shower!
Here's a run down of how we did it:
2. The floor gets covered with a heavy-duty liner made just for shower stalls. Without any seams, it wraps up the walls at least a couple of inches. If any water gets through the finished concrete, this prevents it from getting to any framing and directs it into the drain.
3. The walls are covered with visqueen, a clear plastic which, again, keeps any moisture away from wood. Thanks to Dexter, this step makes you feel really creepy.
4. Greenboard goes up across the studs. Greenboard is a mold-resistant drywall. Perhaps you're catching on to how paranoid you really have to be about preventing moisture, mold and rot. Particularly here in the pacific northwest, we've learned that 80% of building is really just mold prevention. More like 90% when you're talking about a shower.
5. Metal lathe is tacked on top of the greenboard to give the concrete something to grab on to. Metal lathe is a total pain in the ass, and will leave millions of tiny cuts all over your body. Gloves help, but only a little. Consider yourself warned.
6. A scratch coat of concrete gets troweled up the walls and poured onto the floor, sloping towards the drain. After this dries, another layer goes up, which gets textured by pressing special mats against it while it's still wet. All told, there's about 1/2'' of concrete on the walls, and 3'' at the thickest part of the floor.
7. Christy spent a couple of days trying out different water-based stains. A nutty brown and teal-ish green finally gave her what she was looking for. Once that dried, a water-based sealer was rolled over the whole she-bang. And then another coat of sealer. And another. The sealer is our first line of defense against water, so I think we've ended up using five coats. No kill like overkill, right?.
8. The fixture we picked out has a very high (7 feet ish), large shower head. There's a handle-sprayer as well and a tub spout. The tub spout looks a little out of place, but we're happy to have a place to fill large containers (think brewing supplies), wash a dog off, rinse off dirty gardening feet, ect. I'm sure we'll find plenty more uses for it.
We went with concrete instead of tiles for a few reasons. We couldn't find tiles that seemed right, we found some really cool pictures of concrete showers and, finally, we looked at the price of tiles compared to concrete. It was a HUGE savings, like 50%. Now that it's done, I really think I would prefer concrete to tile regardless of price.
We inaugurated it today, and it was awesome! For our only shower in our only bathroom of the only house we're ever going to build, I think we nailed it. Totally worth the bathroom space.